I’ll just start this post off with a humble brag: my squad won on my fourth go at Apex Legends, a new free-to-play battle royale game where legendary competitors battle for glory, fame, and fortune on the fringes of the Frontier. It comes to us from Respawn Entertainment, as well as EA, which previously made things like Titanfall, Titanfall 2, and Call of Duty, all of which I’ve never played. Well, there was that one time I tried a demo for some Call of Duty entry on the Xbox 360, but it didn’t go well; heck, it went so poorly that I never even bothered to document it on Grinding Down. Wah.
Anyways, the battle royale genre is looking like it is here to stay, at least for the near future, and I’m okay with that. I don’t really play a lot of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds these days, though I did hop into it recently to check out the snowy map, but I am still dipping into Fortnite Battle Royale mode to eat up all the various in-game challenges and level up my Battle Pass. This one, this Apex Legends, does a lot of neat things for the blossoming genre, many of which I fully expect to see show up in other games as soon as they can implement them, and I’m having a pretty good time overall despite not being the greatest guns-blazing attacker. Thankfully, there are support classes to rock and other ways to help out your teammates.
The setup is, more or less, as expected. There’s an island full of buildings, weapons, and differently named locations, and you’ll land on it with the goal of being the last team standing. Ah, see, this is a three-squad game, and there’s no solo mode. I really like that there’s a jumpmaster–basically, one person on your squad is randomly assigned this role, and they get to decide where to land–and everyone on your squad jumps together, locked in, though you can veer off if you want to, but Apex Legends stresses staying together, even offering numerous ways to, ahem, respawn downed teammates. A ring slowly closes over time, forcing squads to face off in smaller areas, and there’s a bunch of high-tech weapons to pick up, along with ammo, attachments, and health boosts.
Apex Legends stands out by offering a playable roster that’s more like what you’d find in a hero shooter like Overwatch, which, again, I’ve still not played, despite there always being a free weekend event for it like every month. Characters called Legends include a robot scout named Pathfinder, a hulking heavy known as Gibraltar, a skirmisher named Wraith who is surrounded by inter-dimensional sparks, as well as several others. They all play different roles, like stealth, healer, or scout, but no one character is faster or stronger than anybody else from the get-go. In addition to a special passive ability, Legends have a tactical move and an ultimate power, both of which are on cooldowns.
So far, for me, the neatest thing that Apex Legends is doing differently is based around reviving your squad members. When you die, your squad has a certain amount of time to get to you and revive you as you are bleeding out. If they don’t make it in time, they can still collect your “banner,” a customizable image that represents your character. At any point during the match, they can then run to a respawn beacon and insert your banner, which will respawn you in a dropship up in the sky. Naturally, there’s a risk to this—using the beacon takes time and leaves you exposed—but it’s a welcomed chance to get back into the game. Usually, in Fortnite or PUBG, after dying, I’d just drop back to the lobby, not caring what happened to my remaining teammates, but now there is more reason to stick around and see if you can rejoin the battle.
I’m real curious to see where Apex Legends goes. Maybe more maps and new characters to play as down the road? I wonder if it’ll make dramatic sweeping changes every season like Fortnite or stay more familiar like with Call of Duty: Blackout or PUBG. Time will tell, but it’s certainly off to a strong start. Also, if you must know, I’m most inclined to pick Pathfinder if given the chance; what, I like cheeky robots, and yes, that includes Claptrap.
Sigh. Well, here we are. Some nearly 80+ hours later–and I’m not including the time I put into the PlayStation 3 version, which was all kinds of borked–and I’m just about done with Dragon Age: Inquisition. I want to be done-done, but there are a few things left to see and try, such as the fact that this game has an online multiplayer component to it, and after putting this much time into the bloated beast I feel compelled to see it all…because I never want to go through this again. Ever. Y’all heard me. Sorry, Achievements for beating the story on higher difficulties–ain’t gonna happen.
Anyways, I have a lot to say about Dragon Age: Inquisition. Probably too much. As mentioned above, I’ve put a good number of hours into this thing, almost on par with Disney Magical World 2. In the end, the latter is the much better game of tasks and rewards, dressing your avatar up in various outfits, and engaging combat. Yes, those are fighting words, and I’m ready to fight. That said, there’s a good chance I’ll forget something and that this post will be somewhat frantic and unorganized. I apologize in advance, but if you continue on and read through this whole dang thing, grinding out each and every word, I promise you a reward at the end: a weapon, named something like M’ahlbrogger Gur’s Justice or Stormstrangler and in purple font, but several levels lower than the weapon you are currently equipped with. Sorry. You can immediately mark it as junk and sell it to the nearest vendor. Or destroy when your inventory becomes full. I understand. After all, that’s how the game is played.
Let’s talk about story first, however, since this is a massive roleplaying game set in a fantasy land full of magic and magical beings. That means story is big, larger than life, and it definitely is just that. I found it daunting early on, less as time progressed. Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s story follows you, known as the Inquisitor, on his or her journey to settle the civil unrest on the continent of Thedas and close a mysterious tear in the sky called the Breach, which is, unfortunately for all that live in this world, unleashing demons. The Inquisitor is viewed by some as the “Chosen One” and because of this forms the titular Inquisition in an attempt to stop Corypheus, an ancient darkspawn, who opened the breach to conquer Thedas all by himself. Phew. Got that? Basically, good versus evil, with some shades of gray sprinkled throughout.
The narrative was somewhat simple to follow…early on, when you only had a small base in Haven and a limited number of areas to explore and side quests to deal with. However, once Haven bites the bullet and you are forced to move into a so-not-like-Suikoden abandoned castle in Skyhold, the story stops feeling important. Sure, to everyone in this world, it is of the upmost importance that this Breach is closed, but the game doesn’t really hammer this home; instead, you are given plenty of breathing room, as well as meaningless quest after quest after quest to do because…well, I guess people like doing a lot of different things in RPGs. I do too–I just prefer that there’s meaning, a reason. In every big area the Inquisition can run around in, you can do lots of things, such as: go discover every region, establish a number of camps, complete requisition recipes, claim a bunch of historical sites as yours or at the very least under your protection, scan for shards, scrounge up all the shards, complete a select amount of Astrarium puzzles to unlock a hidden cave, figure out illustrated treasure maps, close Breach rifts, harvest plants and minerals, ping the area for hidden items, loot dead enemies, recruit agents, and more. All of that is of course mixed in with normal combat and main quests that often have you fighting tough bosses or doing specific things, like impressing royalty while simultaneously investigating something mischievous.
Hey, while we’re at it, please help fill out this timely and totally relevant poll of mine:
Right. I’ll also say that about fifty hours into the game…I started skipping cutscenes and mashing my way through dialogue trees to get through them as fast as possible. I knew that, if I wanted to maintain good relationships with everyone and be mostly neutral to a lot of situations, I had to select the dialogue option to the top right most of the time. You know that’s a bad sign for me if I’m just trying to rush through it all. Several years ago, I remember being shocked to discover a buddy of mine doing this for Fallout: New Vegas, a game I loved to listen to and ate up every conversation, but maybe that felt to him like Dragon Age: Inquisition did to me after so many hours in: just wasting my time. Also, I’m evidently not alone on this matter.
Okay, let’s switch over to combat, as that is a big part of all of this, and I might even go as far as to say it gets in the way nine times out of ten. In Dragon Age: Origins, combat was something you paused the action for and planned out, to ensure your survival. I skipped Dragon Age II so I don’t know how it was there, but here, in this one…there’s barely any strategy involved. I’ll present to you how I tackled every single encounter in this game and did more than fine. It went like this:
Hold RT to attack targeted enemy from a distance with bow and arrow.
Use three specific powers, generally in this order–Explosive Shot, Long Shot, Leaping Shot.
Continue holding RT and wait for cooldowns to cool down.
Rinse and repeat.
(Sometimes I’d poison my weapon or use Full Draw, but these were rare moments in time and only when I noticed the icon for them was ready.)
I only occasionally switched to other members of my party to give them a health potion, but never bothered to control them individually or give them specific tasks to do. They seemed fine on their own. Again, about halfway through my journey, I gave up caring and just used the “auto level up” button on Dorian, Varric, and Blackwall, the only three dudes I stuck with for the long haul. Considering we took down 10 dragons, over 75 Breach rifts, Great Bears, and the final boss rather quickly, I guess it all worked out fine. However, when it came to trying to run to a specific area or get a bunch of shards, combat just got in the way and slowed progress down. There’s no easy way to duck out of an encounter, so you might as well finish it, otherwise it feels like running through molasses if you try to leave the area.
Romance was a big part of Dragon Age: Origins, and it is not the main focus here. Gone are the days of giving a woman shoes and watching a meter go up. That’s actually a good thing because that’s simply not how a relationship works. However, you still earn likes and dislikes from party members based on actions you take in the story and conversations, most of which you can enter a romantic relationship with–I went with that bearded beauty Blackwall. This romance option was probably the most interesting part of Dragon Age: Inquisition all in all, as I found his character intriguing and mysterious, and there’s a quest chain to follow after you and he do the dirty deed, which really goes places and changes his future involvement in the campaign. However, I never felt compelled to dig into anyone else’s backstory. There were too many people to pick from, and because of that I went with one only and dug deep. Sorry, Sera, I’m sure you had a zany bunch of quests to do.
The crafting system is terrible. There, I said it. I struggled to figure out how to do most of it, though tinting armor and weapons to be a certain color was fun. Basically, you have a recipe to make a weapon, and depending on what materials you put into it, you’ll get different results. Obviously if you use higher-rated materials like dragon scales, you’ll make a stronger thing. That said, there was no easy way to compare this weapon-in-progress with one you had equipped, so you had to remember the stats and hope for the best. A majority of the time I ended up wasting dragon-related materials on a weapon that still turned out to be weaker than the unique bow or staff I got from beating a story mission’s boss. In fact, the entire UI for equipping weapons and armor is frustratingly slow to slog through, and I found myself storing my unique, purple-font weapons away without so much of a glance. What did it matter? I was taking down everything in my Inquisitor’s path without a struggle.
Let’s see. What else, what else. Oh yeah, Dragon Age: Inquisition is broken or always on the edge of breaking. Like an ice cream truck on a thin sheet of ice. It’s a game that asks players to do some platforming even though it was clearly not designed to be that kind of experience. Here’s me trying to collect a shard. Speaking to people can be problematic too, with the dialogue wheel sometimes not activating or activating in the middle of nowhere. Here’s me talking to a dude and then suddenly entering combat. And sometimes you just want to sand surf. Several times, the game crashed to the Xbox One dashboard without warning. Thankfully, it autosaves frequently, and I got used to making hard saves.
DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition has been weird. This version that I bought last year during the Black Friday sale came with everything:Jaws of Hakkon, Dragonslayer, Spoils of the Avvar, The Descent, and Trespasser. Since I wasn’t playing the game from release day with an eye to the sky for more, I didn’t know what was what and what order things should be played in. I also got a whole bunch of special armor recipes, mounts, and things like that right from the get-go. I did know that one piece of DLC was only accessible after completing the main quests. I’ve now completed all the DLC, but finishing Jaws of Hakkon and The Descent very late into the game, with the former being finished after I beat the main campaignandTrespasser, sure felt like a waste of time and energy. There was no point to even looting any enemies or chests because I wasn’t going to play any further after I finished them off.
And now I’m just going to cop this style from The A.V. Club and leave everyone with some…
Clicking in the left analog stick to ping the environment for interactive items is officially one of my least favorite things in modern game design
I rode a mount two times total, one for a story mission in the Hinterlands and the other when messing around in a menu and accidentally hitting the button
I’m the Inquisitor, the Chosen One, leader of a great army, and I have to pick all these flowers and rocks myself?
I killed a bunch of nugs near the end of my time with Dragon Age: Inquisition to help pop the Trial of the Emperor Achievement, and I feel like a monster
Anthem better not be Dragon Age IV, but sci-fi, or I’ll cry on my controller and break it
My character’s name is Felena, but now I wish I had named her Felicia, so I could say that thing all the kids are these days
I may or may not be nearing the end of my time with The Sims FreePlay, which I only really picked up again in September 2015 after not touching it for a good long while. I say may because I just popped the last, in my mind, feasible Achievement, which involved a lot of grinding and a solid time investment, and I say may not because, even though the remaining Achievements seem unattainable, there’s a part of me that wants to keep trying. In terms of goals, there’s really not much left for me to focus on, to grasp at achieving, and because this is a free-to-play game, restrictions abound when it comes to things like decorating your house, adding more Sims, and so on. I’d rather go play The Sims on a console or PC to get the full experience…or a fuller one via cheat codes.
First, take a look at this shiny thing, which required a lot of complaining on one man’s part, bless his terribly rude soul:
Nemesis of the State: Have 1 Sim be nemeses with 16 Sims. (15G)
This took awhile. I’ve been actively working towards this goal for the last few months, and even created a specific Sim called Jerky McJerk to fill this role. That way it would be easy to track, especially once my Sims count reached over twenty, with only one Sim that everyone hated as a community. I made sure to dress Jerky McJerk in the pinkest suits ever seen to ensure I didn’t forget this man’s job in being rude and obnoxious to everyone he crossed paths with, except for toddlers and babies, as they are unaffected by impoliteness. Don’t know if that’s a hard fact or not, but I’ll believe it for now.
It’s a grindy goal, one that I often did while watching Giant Bomb or a TV show during my lunch break. Basically, I’d scan my list of villagers, see who wasn’t a nemesis with Jerky McJerk yet, send him over, and hit the “complain” interaction with them–for five minutes total, requiring about 30 interactions in the end. All without having my Windows phone’s screen time out. This resulted in me occasionally tapping the screen and checking it every few seconds to make sure all was going well. Rinse and repeat until Jerky McJerk is the bane of sixteen Sims total.
The problem was that, more or less, I had Jerky McJerk make enemies with about eight or nine people rather fast, but after them, I had to wait until more Sims were added to my town. Sometimes this didn’t happen right away because I’d rather spend my hard-earned Simoleons on buying new buildings pertinent to ongoing quests, like the stables or swimming center. It was only recently that I realized I had a decent amount of Lifestyle Points–that’s the orange currency in the pic above–somewhere around 80 or so since I never spent them. You can use these to buy new houses for rather cheap. Still, once you buy a house, you have to wait upwards of 36 hours for it to be “built,” which is why this process took so long. Good thing I’m Mr. Patience Man.
So, here’s what is left for me to accomplish in The Sims FreePlay: have my town be worth 12,000,000 simoleons, have it be worth 30,000,000 simoleons, and complete 1,000 goals. Sadly, after playing the game nearly daily for nearly five months, my town is only worth about 3,500,000 simoleons. That’s kind of harsh. I’ve not spent a single real dime, and I have to imagine that if I did plop down some digital cash my town’s worth be much higher. The “quickest” way to raise your town is to buy buildings and houses, both of which are costly and take time to complete after purchasing. Then you have to go through the long process of sending your Sims off to work every day to earn enough money to buy the next building or house, both of which go up in price the more you build. I’m not prophetic, but I think I can see the future, and it’s looking like a slow burn.
Evidently, there’s an exploit to help you boost your town’s worth by 30,000 simoleons, but it too is grindy and requires dedication. Not sure if it is even ultimately worth going after in such a manner. I’d rather hit these mile markers traditionally, and if I’m looking to complete 1,000 goals then surely it’ll happen along the way. The way could be years down the road. Also, one problem: I have no idea how many goals I’ve completed so far. Sure, sure–it’s feels like I’ve done a thousand and then some, but since there’s no stat tracking in-game, it’s impossible to tell, and I’m not about to start counting now.
I suspect I’ll keep tapping away at The Sims FreePlay for a bit more, just to see if I get any closer in a quicker fashion, but a part of me already feels ready to call this adventure dead and done. Which is strange, because I probably won’t uninstall the game right away, which means this cast of characters that I would play omnipotent being to and command they do my bidding will simply sit ignored on my phone, bereaved, with no chance of progressing. Huh, it’s kind of like when I’d play The Sims back on the PC, put a fellow in a row by himself, wait until he had to use the bathroom really bad, and then remove all the doors. Yup, I was that player.
I don’t own or play any of these games; this all-consuming shutdown does not affect me.
And yet it does.
I’ve always been a single-player game kind of fella. Online gaming is something that I never thought I’d get into, and so I didn’t. A few times during college, after working out a lot of firewall kinks, I would play some Command & Conquer: Red Alert late at night with my best friend a few states away, but other than that…didn’t ever see the point. I also never had a gaming PC so-to-say or any consoles that thrived on online gaming, such as an Xbox at that time. Just a PlayStation 2, and I think you needed a special degree to get that hooked up to the Interwebz. There were, of course, a few games I would’ve loved to try playing online, namely Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal and Diablo II, but the stars were not meant to align.
So, how does server shutdowns for games I don’t even play affect me? It only makes me more bitter and cautious towards online gaming. I want games to last forever, and nowadays there’s a heavy focus on social gaming (hello, Facebook!)–and without actual people, there’s nothing to play. That kind of perspective is dangerous and insulting, especially for hardened RPG fanatics that have spent countless hours alone grinding characters to perfection. In fact, some games’ multiplayer trumps single-player campaigns in terms of length and content and love. Boo to that. I’ve dabbled in GTA IV‘s online activity and found it bland and annoying; so far, the only current online experience I’ve had that was pretty successful was in Borderlands. I purposely steer clear of online, multiplayer-heavy games, and with the constant threat of server shutdown, it seems, to me, a pointless thing to invest in.
Goodbye, EA Sports FIFA Manager 10. I hardly knew ya.